Monday, September 2, 2019

Never Stop Walking by Christina Rickardsson - Book Review

This memoir exposes a childhood full of trauma: extreme poverty, violence, and parental alienation. Followed by adoption and beginning a life half a world away. Ms. Christina Rickardsson writes about how she followed her biological mother's advice and never stopped walking. And tells her readers where that physical and emotional journey has taken her.


A loving mother's advice - never stop walking.

Christina Rickardsson came into the world named Christiana Mara Coelho. She lived with her mother in the slums (also called "Favela") of Sao Paulo, Brazil. A baby brother was born. At times, the little family slept in a cave. Other times, they slept on the street. Food was often found in the trash and on days that food couldn't be found, paint was sniffed in order to dampen the hunger pains. Death, decay, grief, and loss are a part of the lives of children living in the Favela. Sinister people and traumatic things are lurking around every corner. But young Christiana feels safe and loved with her mother.

There comes a time that Christiana is separated from her mother. At the ripe old age of 7, she is forced to choose between running away and remaining to care for her much younger brother. She is adopted after a year in an orphanage. She may as well have been sent to a different planet. She cannot understand the language, food is different but plentiful, and she has a physical home. Her physical needs are taken care of. 

What happens next?

The story does not move in a linear fashion. It bounces back and forth between life with her biological family in Brazil and life with her adoptive family in Sweden. The descriptions of childhood in Brazil transported me there. The story also includes life as a young adult attempting to reconcile her two very different childhoods, her two very different selves. And try to make sense of how things came to be. 



At times, near the middle of the book, I felt it dragged a bit. As though I had read the author's same thoughts and concerns multiple times. But at the end of the story I found that it was helpful to understand the jumble of feelings that such a life creates.

The thing that really struck me about this story, and reinforced what I already know from my work, is that parental alienation is often the most traumatic thing a child can experience. Above all, Christina seemed most impacted by the way she was separated from and kept from her biological mother. In my opinion, "civilized" societies believe that children are better away from poverty - even if that means destroying the parent-child ties. I don't think that financial stability and/or excess is able to heal the wounds created by this familial loss. But I digress.

The way Christiana and her mother were separated was viewed by those involved as the best way to give Christiana a good start with her new family. When in reality, it seemed more traumatic for Christiana than witnessing a murder, living in a cave in the forest as a child, and routinely experiencing hunger. True, with the financially stable life, Christina received an education and opportunities that allowed her to make some choices she would not have been able to make otherwise. But it seemed to me that very choice showed us how much healing and reconciling she needed to do.

What choices did she make as a young adult? What has she done since then? You'll have to read her story to find out.


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10 comments:

  1. I cannot even imagine how bewildered and frightened a small child would feel suddenly taken from her mother & baby brother and sent to live in a foreign country with strangers. Even with improved circumstances (a safe place to live with enough food to eat), it had to be traumatic to a 7-year-old. This sounds like an intriguing memoir. Thanks for the review, Dawn Rae.

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    1. It is very traumatic. I had some kids that were 'given' to Foster parents just because the foster parents could give the child college. It's crazy.

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  2. Such a timely memoir. You really have to wonder about the future of the children now being separated from their parents. Sounds like my kind of book. I mostly read nonfiction these days (and especially memoirs). It is especially meaningful to learn from the perspective of those who have been through a great deal of childhood trauma. I hope these kinds of books will help inform the decisions being made by adults on behalf of today's children.

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    1. I think this book is definitely up your alley. However, there is no 'now' that children are being separated. That's historical. It is only just now news. And only for certain kids. It really tears me up. If we ever get a chance to hang out, I'll tell you about the cases that haunt me.

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  3. It's traumatic all the way around. After reading your review I wonder if she ever got to see her birth family again. Those who suffer the most sometimes teach us the most. I hope she was able to find something worthy from all her suffering. She did tell her story in this book, and that's a worthy thing - she's connecting with others and creating awareness. It doesn't take her pain away I'm sure, but by helping others she's turning a nightmare situation into lessons for all of us to understand. Children are so precious. Wish I could save everyone.

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    1. Barbara, it was tempting to tell about what happened about her mom/birth family. But I didn't want to give any spoilers. I can say that she currently has started a foundation to help at-risk kids. So that's a productive thing that came from all the trauma.

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  4. That book profoundly affected me when I read it. We take so much for granted when we come from families that have enough and more than the basics of life. I see how much my own daughter's separation from her birth mother affected her. The scene in the book about that forced separation was traumatic for me just reading it.This is an important book. I hope many more read it.

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    1. I'm glad that someone else, someone I know, thinks this is an important story.

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  5. " I don't think that financial stability and/or excess is able to heal the wounds created by this familial loss. " Absolutely agree. Hoping working through her challenges via this book will help her journey.

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  6. Ahh Dawn, you have hit close to home with this one for me personally. I was born in Brazil right there in Sao Paulo, unlike Christina, our whole family left Brazil for Canada. I went back to Brazil in 2006 and visited some missionaries. While there we did arrive in the favaelas to see first hand what life was like. Glue sniffing, paint sniffing and other noxious gases are used to deaden the pain of hunger. It is a very hard life. Thank you for this review, I will look this book up for sure.

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